MMATorch Daily Top Five 4/25: Top Takeaways From UFC 197 “Jones vs. Saint Preux”

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

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4/25/16: Top Takeaways From Saturday’s UFC 197 Event

Following major UFC events, we’ll be discussing the five biggest highlights, moments, or takeaways from the weekend’s fights. Today’s top five focuses on Saturday’s UFC 197 pay-per-view event from Las Vegas.

5. Anthony Pettis’ decline disappointing, potentially fixable: The regression and decline of Anthony Pettis came on out of nowhere, and it’s hard to know where to pin the blame. After a fantastic submission win over Gilbert Melendez, Pettis’ loss to Rafael dos Anjos seems to have killed confidence in what he does in the cage. While the loss to Eddie Alvarez in January wasn’t necessarily entirely out of past character – in many ways his penchant for allowing wrestlers to press pace and back him up is a problem he’s yet to correct – what happened against Edson Barboza was somewhat shocking. Credit to Barboza for one of his more complete performances in the cage, but Pettis being as gun-shy as he was throughout the bout seemed out of character. If he can’t press his pace and out-strike lower ranked strikers, and he can’t find a way to beat wrestlers like Alvarez, any hope of regaining the UFC Lightweight Title goes out the window. It seems to be a mental block more than a physical decline, so it doesn’t have to be the end for him, but he’s got a much, much longer road ahead of him than he did into Saturday night.

4. Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier at UFC 200?: With the UFC going the extremely stubborn route on Conor McGregor at UFC 200, they need something significant to replace it. Jon Jones came out of UFC 197 relatively unscathed (sore legs that he downplayed), and if Cormier is cleared for the event on Monday that fight is going to take place on that card. Failing that, the UFC almost has to fold and give McGregor the planned fight. Jones-Cormier may be a suitable enough replacement, and from a meaningful standpoint it certainly is a much more relevant fight than McGregor-Diaz II at welterweight. Of course, it’s not as much of a money-making fight as the McGregor-Diaz rematch, so UFC 200’s pay-per-view business is going to be lessened no matter what gets put there.

3. There’s a reason Jon Jones has avoided short-notice fights: Criticize Jones’ performance all you like, but he still mostly shut down a top ten fighter, landed quite a bit of offense, and won an easy decision after 15 months out of action. As he said afterward, his preparation into the event was centered on Daniel Cormier, and things were changed up to account for a completely different type of fighter with very little time to prep for the fight. While there’s certainly more he could have done – and he himself wasn’t entirely pleased with the performance – he knocked off any lingering rust, looked good enough at clearly not peak levels, and gets to return focus to Cormier. He didn’t take any unnecessary risks, and yet still showed why he’s the best 205 lb. fighter in the world.

2. Demetrious Johnson should get to call some shots: He’s not going to sell the most tickets, he’s not going to bring in the most pay-per-view buys, and he’s not going to command the biggest paycheck, but Johnson is clearly as elite as they came, and should have a significant say in just whom he fights going forward, and when. The UFC tried to skirt that with the announcement of flyweights on TUF 24 to crown a new challenger, but seem to have abandoned that given some of his comments after. With how excellent he looked Saturday night, if he’s fine fighting anyone in line close to available – even if he’s beaten them before – the UFC should simply go along with his plans. Give him Joseph Benavidez again, give him any other flyweight willing to step up for the challenge, let him go after Anderson Silva’s record for title defenses, then move on from there. He’s earned that much at least.

1. Top P4P fighter discussion is a tight one: The fact that Jon Jones failed to decimate Ovince Saint Preux on short notice seems to have hurt him in the eyes of some in the conversation for top pound for pound fighter in the world, but there’s no question that “Mighty Mouse” is making a strong case for himself. Johnson’s incredible clinch work against undefeated Cejudo on Saturday night for his eighth straight title defense can’t be ignored, and he’s proven himself in the mix; however, Jones’ level of competition has been significantly higher than a flyweight division sending under-prepared and just flat-out over-matched challengers, and the fact that he’s been in real trouble in only a handful of rounds in total over the last several years keeps him in the top spot for me.

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